Almanzo 100 Photo Dump

Keri and I finally arrived home from Minnesota. It was quite the weekend and we’re glad to be home. Since the hotels booked up pretty quickly in Spring Valley, where the Almanzo race series is held, we decided to stay in Rochester.

Unfortunately, Keri’s car decided to have some issues the day before we were supposed to leave, but I was able to get the Saris company vehicle and off we went! The drive to Rochester vs. to the Twin Cities is much more beautiful. It’s always amazing crossing over the Mississippi in La Crosse, and seeing a vast expanse of rolling farmland and trees.

Once we arrived in Rochester, we dropped our stuff in the hotel and grabbed some coffee. The Midwestern outside sales rep for Saris was meeting us there and we later got dinner. At dinner we went over our game plan for the next day. We had to be in Spring Valley and setup by 6AM because that’s when the Royal 162 riders were leaving.

The Almanzo actually has 3 bike races. The Alexander (which used to be the Nellie) is 385 miles over 3 days. The Royal which is 162 miles in one day (I suppose you could take 2 days if needed) and the Almanzo 100, which is the most popular, 100 mile option.

Setup by 6AM meant having to getup by 4:30 so we could get ready, pack up, and drive down. Setup was fairly quick and there were a handful of other sponsor tents in the expo area. Things didn’t really pick up until about 7/7:30 when the Almanzo lineup was about to take place. For having 1,000+ riders, we only had a handful of people who actually came to chat with us. Most of them were from Madison and were glad to see us there.

Eventually riders rolled up to the start on Main St. The event’s organizer, Chris Skogen, got up and said some words. It was pretty emotional because the dude has worked his butt off the past few years to make the Almanzo a successful event. To see 1,000 people show up to your hometown to do a gravel bike race is really something.

Eventually all the riders rolled out. There was a wide range of riders and different bike setups. It’s always fun for a bike nerd to attend such an event!

The rest of the day was filled with frisbee tossing, mingling with company reps, eating food, getting sunburned, riding bikes, drinking beer, and trying to escape the heat. Uneventful, but still a good time. We had all hoped that more locals and supporters of the riders would hangout and talk to us, but that wasn’t the case. Some of the Spring Valley folks didn’t seem to take too kindly to having a bunch of strange cycling folks in their city. I’m sure as the event evolves and changes, people will start to support it more and see what it does for the local economy. It really made us appreciate what we have here in Wisconsin. Not all towns are cycling friendly, but we’re pretty spoiled by the amount of cycling enthusiasts outside of our big cities.

Riders started returning around 3pm. It was a hot day and the route supposedly had 2 river crossings. One was somewhat unintentional as a bridge was out, but it was too late to change the route. A lot of folks looked like they had taken quite the beating and ended up in the shade with a cold Coke in hand. Once 4pm rolled around, we decided to call it a day. We had to drive back to Rochester and our outside rep had to head back to Wisconsin to setup some shop visits.

The drive back to Rochester was pretty as we took County Hwy. 1 or County Rd. 1. Nice rolling hills and gravel roads EVERYWHERE! Keri and I decided we definitely want to do the ride next year. We had both signed up to do it this year, but lack of time for training and other commitments sort of got in the way. The challenge seems great though and we love doing new events.

Once we got back in Rochester, we found a crappy pizza place that was grossly overpriced for what we got, but we were so tired we didn’t care. We got back to our hotel at about 6:30pm and I ended up falling asleep at 7. We were totally beat by waking up early and being out in the hot sun all day.

Overall we both had a lot of fun, even though there wasn’t much happening as far as the “race expo” goes. We definitely have some ideas on how sponsors can get better exposure and involvement next year and we look forward to making the trip again! Check out some of our photos below 🙂

Gravel Crushin’

The Almanzo 100 (aka super crazy, famous gravel race in Minnesota) is a mere 20 days away. Neither me or Keri have had the time to truly put in a good amount of miles in the saddle. In all honesty, we’ll be glad if we finish half of it, but have made a pact to ride until it stops being fun. Whether that’s 40 miles or the whole 100, we shall see.

If we’re taking vacation days and spending money on a hotel room, we need to make sure both of us have fun doing whatever it is we are doing, otherwise the trip isn’t worth while. Fortunately neither of us are really wanting to participate in the race because of it’s “epic-ness”, but rather because it involves riding in a scenic setting with a bunch of other bike lovers. We’ll also be there along with the Midwestern Saris/CycleOps rep to promote the company. Saris graciously donated a heap of product for those who podium in various divisions of the race.

Today we decided to go ride one of our local rail trails to get in some gravel like riding in before the event. Most of our local trails are crushed limestone, but Glacial Drumlin has a section that deviates from the regular trail and has more loose chunky gravel. Having a few variations makes for more interesting riding. I personally haven’t ridden on the country roads of Southern Minnesota, but I’m guessing it’s not all nicely groomed and packed down dirt.

Another reason for the ride was to test our personal setups for the event. Keri is riding her steel Fuji touring bike with a rack and one pannier. I’ll be riding my Raleigh RX 1.0 with a Banjo Brothers Waterpoof Saddle Trunk, Jaand Frame Pack, and a Banjo Brothers Top Tube bag.

Each of our packing lists will include the following:
-2 waterbottles (may bring a third for good measure)
-1 camelbak
-1 pump
-tire levers
-patch kit
-chain tool
-park hex tool wrenches
-FixIt sticks (w/flat head)
-cycling computer
-pocket knife
-rechargeable headlight
-back up small headlight (battery op)
-rain jacket
-hi vis packable vest
-arm warmers
-tube of NUUN hydration tablets & probably some Skratch labs mix
-a few packs Clif Bloks w/caffeine in various flavors
-Kind Bars for snacking
-Almond butter packets for snacking
-Road ID bracelet
-Joule GPS cycling computer (as back up, doesn’t give turn by turn directions, but has a little bit of a breadcrumbs feature in case we take a wrong turn- traditional GPS is not allowed, maps and cuesheets only!)
-cue clip
-aaa batteries & 2032 batteries
-small first aid kit w/ibuprofen & antacids
-Hoo Ha ride glide (best chamois cream EVER)
-Go Girl (so we can pee standing up with bibs on…a really awesome invention)
-trowel (we’ll be in the woods)
-lip balm
-cycling clothes & shoes

The list is long and short at the same time. The Almonzo is an unsupported race, so there are no aid stations with food or water on the route. As far as we know there are only 2 possible locations for stopping for food and to refill water. Hopefully it’s not blazing hot or cold and rainy. We’ll have to call for back up if we need to bail from the route.

Overall, I think we’re both excited to be a part of something fun and unique like the Almanzo. There’s about 1300 folks signed up for the race. I’m guessing about 1100 will actually show up, but maybe less. We’ll most likely start at the back of the pack since we’re not looking for glory and the caboose of a ride/race is always more fun over a long distance 🙂

Check the photos below of our adventures!

Product Preview: Raleight RX 1.0 Women’s Specific

New bike day is always the best day of the year or lifetime or month or however often people purchase new bikes!

I was super excited when my hot new Raleigh RX 1.0 showed up in our bike parking area at work. I was able to order direct from Raleigh as they are a distributor of our products, but you should be able to find this bike at any Raleigh dealer.

When searching for a new bike I knew I wanted something light and fast. I have a history of riding steel steeds, which are great and super durable, but I had the need for speed. During my search I had considered some various road bike options from Trek, Felt, Giant, Kona (who no longer offers a women’s road bike *frown*), and Foundry bikes.

I had ordered a bike last year from Trek, so I didn’t really want to go that route. The Lexa SLX is a bike that gets a lot of use in my house. I’ve been using it to train indoors this winter and Keri used it last year for the ACT Ride. It’s an awesome bike, but it was lacking on some of the features I’ve come to love. One of those is being able to mount wide tires. I absolutely LOVE the feel of a fatty, slick, folding tire in the summer. On Wisconsin roads, it gives so much great cushion.

The 2012 Lexa SLX
Foundry Auger- Canti Edition

Foundry didn’t end up making the cut as I wasn’t quite ready to rock a full carbon bike. I don’t know if it’s because I read too many retro grouch blogs, but I just wasn’t ready to take the leap into that world. I really dig the look of the bikes. Very little flash, all black, and lots of sex appeal. The price was also a bit out of my comfort zone. I’d still love to test ride one of their bikes. If anyone out there is reading this and has the hook up, let me know!

Eventually I decided an aluminum cross bike with a carbon fork would probably be the best fit for me. Felt usually has some sexy ‘cross options, but I didn’t see anything in the current line up that made me drool. The color schemes were kind of blah and I just wasn’t really sold on their setups.

The one bike that I had really hoped to buy was the Salsa Chili Con Crosso, but they discontinued it only to end up coming out with the Warbird. It’s their new gravel, disc brake bike. The Con Crosso was a staple at every cross race I’d ever been to. Hopefully they’ll bring it back someday, once people realize disc brakes aren’t all they are cracked up to be for ‘cross racing.

The lack of options out there eventually led me to Raleigh. Some of their pro level bikes were featured at Cross Nationals in Verona and they looked pretty sweet. After some research I saw they were one of very few companies that offers a women’s specific cyclocross bike. They actually make two levels of the ‘cross bike, the basic RX and the RX 1.0. Once I pretty much settled on the bike, I started doing some online sleuthing. I found out that Bike Shop Girl aka Arleigh Jenkins had done a pretty good overview of the previous year’s model. It all seemed legit to me and the men’s versions got pretty good feedback from various ‘cross blogs and industry sites.

I sent off an e-mail to one of the Raleigh reps and the bike was ordered. My cross-check is a 50cm and based on the geometry I decided a size 52 in the RX 1.0 would probably fit best.

Only about a week or so after the initial inquiry, the bike arrived. YAY! You’ll see in the photos below how much detail Raleigh put into the bike. The aesthetics are very pleasing…girly, but not so girly that I would be embarrassed to show up to a group ride with it. The frame color is a little more purple than I expected, but still very nice. The photos online show it as a grey/black color. There’s only one small detail on the bike that is cheesy, but I didn’t even bother to take an initial photo of it. I will probably find a little decal or something to cover it up. It’s on the down tube and will probably go unnoticed by anyone not paying attention.

The drive train is Sram Apex with an FSA crank and Rival rear derailleur.This is my first Sram laden bike, which is pretty exciting.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my trusty Shimano, but Sram has some hot stuff going on. The doubletap is actually pretty sweet.

The handlebars, stem, and seat post are Raleigh house brand, Avenir. Not too shabby, but I ended up putting a slightly taller Thompson stem on the bike and will be replacing the handlebars with Salsa’s Road 2 bars in size small, 40cm width. The bars that come with the bike are 38’s, which are kind of on the small side for a 52cm bike.

The only pedals included with the bike were some cheap plastic test ride pedals. I recycled those and bought some Crank Brothers Egg Beaters. I’m used to using the Candy pedals, but I wanted to give the Egg Beaters a try. Crank Brothers has always been my favorite pedal system, so I’m sure they’ll work out just fine.

The brakes are Tektro c720’s (?) and come with cheater levers. I’ll probably end up getting rid of the levers once I swap the handlebar out. I don’t really like them as they take up too much space and add unnecessary weight. (This is my “fast” bike after all!) The wheels are ridiculous (wait until I post the real follow up photos, you’ll see)  Weinmann DP18’s with standard 32 spokes and pink nipples. Good for training I suppose, but I will definitely buy a new wheel set in the spring. I could probably drop a whole pound or more just by swapping wheel sets.

The tires are some pretty awesome Vittoria ‘cross tires. I’ll keep those around for rail trail riding or for if I ever decide to woman up and do some racing. I’ll swap those out for a fattier slick tire for road riding in the mean time.

I’m keeping the stock seat post. It’s not too heavy and does the job. The saddle I wasn’t a fan of. It had way too much pink on it and was a Velo branded uncomfortable thing. I went with Bike Shop Girl’s (Arleigh’s) recommendation of the Fizik Vitesse. I actually could only find the Tri model, so I went with that and it seems pretty good. I’m usually a Brook’s, so it will take some time getting used to a regular saddle. I really like how long the saddle is. Plenty of length for if you shift your weight.

Overall I’m super excited to ride the bike. The snow is keeping me stuck on a trainer, but at the first sign of spring, I’ll be sure to take her out for a nice long adventure. For the price, I think the bike is a great value. Yeah, there are a few things that could be better, but there’s rarely a mass produced bike that doesn’t have something less than perfect about it.

I guess I’ve maybe become spoiled with nice bike parts, but I could make due with the stock parts if needed. The bike fits nicely and is quite the head turner. Big props to whoever designed the RX line over at Raleigh! Keep up the great work 🙂